We left the hotel, me in my 2019 Arsenal jersey and my husband in an Arsenal jacket. The Tube station is more or less under our hotel and we saw one other fan enter the train in his Arsenal shirt, a small boy. We changed trains at Kings Cross St. Pancras to the Piccadilly line and were joined by considerably more Arsenal jerseys, including a lot of the black Away jersey and many of this year’s pink Away jersey. By the time we stopped a few times to pick up more people, the majority of people on the train were Arsenal fans. The train let us out at Arsenal station, only the few neutrals continuing onward on the train. We were playing Fulham, also in London, and there were a few Fulham fans mixed in with our crowd.
In all the time I’ve been coming to matches, I’ve never seen the fans quite so jacked up. They were singing for all they were worth along the Ken Friar bridge and into the stadium. I went to the seats to watch the warmup and my husband went to find a beer.
We were both in our seats at the singing of North London Forever (really called The Angel), the song written by a local musician/fan that commenced being used at the stadium at the end of last season. That was pretty special and I felt the lump in my throat. Once the match started, the stadium was electric.
Normally, I am very tuned into the details of the match but I couldn’t find my focus. There was so much chanting and cheering, none of it very coordinated. A third of the stadium was singing one song, a third singing something else, and a final third singing something else entirely. I started to realize that I had only one purpose—to sing and support my team and will it, with thousands of others, to a win.
It registered with me that we weren’t having our best match. Odegaard was playing well, but things were a bit sloppy from everyone else. Other than that, there were only five moments that stood out in my mind.
- Jesus getting drawn in on some Fulham bad behavior and getting a yellow card before the end of the first half. Great animosity toward the referee. Seeing the guy in front of us in a wheelchair doing the international hand sign of—let’s call it—self love, and hearing the toddler next to us pipe up in his tiny voice, while holding his stuffed bear—“you DON’T know WHAT you’re doing! You DON’T know WHAT you’re doing!”
- Mitrovic getting behind the last two Arsenal defenders where they had no chance of catching up to get the ball. One of them was going to have to bring him down, risking a red card and maybe a penalty if it didn’t happen soon enough. And neither of them did. Instead, Mitrovic swung his mighty leg back to take a mighty shot that would produce a mighty goal….and then fell down as if God herself had laid a banana peel in his path.
- Our Gabriel having the ball at his feet a moment too long and Mitrovic picking his pocket. God, fresh out of banana peels, shrugging while he scored a big goal. The Fulham fans going berserk with joy. And we Arsenal fans doubling down on singing and cheering to get through this moment. 0-1.
- Odegaard scoring a deflected shot to bring the score to 1-1. I never took my eyes off the match, but where the ball came from, I have no memory.
- Willing the last goal from a corner kick near the end of the 90 minutes, from the foot of Gabriel. It wasn’t pretty but it was in the net. Waiting interminably for a ruling on a possible handball. Then celebrating like mad, as you do when you looked to be losing or tying, and ended up winning.
We hung around after the final whistle soaking up the joy, then walked back over to Arsenal station. The entire train was filled with Arsenal jerseys and fans, until stop by stop, the proportion of fans to regular people changed completely. Finally, my husband and I were the only fans left in the train car.